While the world prepared to mark the second anniversary of the shooting down of flight PS752 above Tehran that killed 176 people on Jan. 8, 2020, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council secretary Oleksiy Danilov told Voice of America that he considered the incident a to be premeditated terrorist attack by the Iranian regime.
"What happened was a terrorist act committed against a civilian aircraft," Danilov said in a Jan. 5 interview.
He also said that Iranian authorities had allowed other civilian jets to take off from Tehran airport before the crash, alleging the shootdown was likely ordered by senior Iranian officials, and that the Ukrainian plane was targeted on purpose.
"We have the impression that they (the Iranians) had been waiting specifically for our plane. We can assume this," he said, hinting this opinion is shared by other people in the administration or the government. "It must have been an order from senior management. No (air defense) operators can make such a decision on their own."
Danilov also said that Iran had not paid any compensation to Ukrainian victims' families so far, and that its cooperation with Ukraine's criminal investigation was non-existent.
Danilov first made the allegation that Iran deliberately shot down PS752 in an April 2021 Globe and Mail interview. However, Ukraine has thus far not provided evidence that Iran's shooting down of Flight PS752 was part of a premeditated, intentional act.
Long quest for justice
Early on Jan. 8, 2020, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 with 176 people on board was shot down by an Iranian missile four minutes after taking off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport. There were no survivors.
The flight was carrying 167 passengers, including nationals of Iran, Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, and the U.K. to Kyiv, where many planned to catch connecting flights. Twenty-six of the victims were under 18, and 13 were children under 10. The list of victims included families, a newlywed couple and many university students and professors.
That day, Ukraine lost 11 citizens, including nine crew members.
Initially, Iran blamed engine issues. After the release of video recordings that captured the plane’s final seconds, Tehran admitted that the plane was struck by two Iranian missiles. Black box data confirmed that missile strikes brought down the plane.
Iranian officials said that an air defense operator mistook the Ukrainian plane for an American cruise missile and fired on it. Iran’s air defense forces were on high alert at the time of the attack. Hours earlier, Iran had fired ballistic missiles at U.S. military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
Danilov’s declarations about the crash followed a Canadian court’s ruling on Jan. 4, ordering Iran to pay $84 million-plus interest to the families of six people who died when a passenger plane was shot down near Tehran in 2020.
The judge said the case represented the first time a Canadian court had been asked to determine damages “for loss of life caused by terrorism,” which sparked Danilov's comment.
Iranian state television initially reported that the crash might have been caused by technical issues, but other news reports suggested Iranian forces mistakenly shot the plane down. Tehran finally backtracked and admitted the plane was shot by missiles, but claimed it was an accident.
In a statement issued on Jan. 7, Iran's Foreign Ministry said Tehran has sent letters to embassies of the governments involved to pay the families of 30 foreign victims.
The Iranian statement said Tehran was ready for "bilateral" talks with the countries whose citizens were killed but accused some of those nations, without naming them, of "trying to exploit this painful incident."
The Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement on Jan. 7 that Iran has begun the process of paying the $150,000 compensation its government promised to victims’ families at the end of 2020. It also said that Iran will continue to hold court hearings to try 10 unnamed Iranian officials indicted in April 2021 for shooting down the airliner.
Ukraine joined Canada, the U.K., and Sweden in a joint statement on Jan. 7 vowing to hold Iran accountable for “the actions and omissions of its civil and military officials that led to the illegal downing of flight PS752 by ensuring that Iran makes full reparations for its breaches of international law."